And heading home from beautiful Arizona. As most of you know, my desktop died a couple of weeks ago, and a few days later my laptop was stolen, and then I came out West for a week.
Between all of that, I have lost a ton of pre-prepared postings and I am at least 500 emails behind, and I'm still struggling a little with the cool, new tiny laptop.
Friday, March 07, 2008
Jerome Art Galleries
Jerome, Arizona sits straddling the side of a mountain about a mile high from sea level and less than 30 miles from its more famous cousin Sedona.
"America's most vertical city" -- I am told -- is home to about 400 people, but once boasted 16,000 inhabitants and a brothel madam who was Arizona's richest woman.
Although the whores are long gone, today the town still manages to attract a few million tourists a year, not only for the spectacular views that it affords from nearly every vantage point in this tiny and beautiful town, but also because of a budding gallery scene that although seemimgly having fairly established roots, it only seems to be blossoming out recently with a significant number of art galleries and venues and a rather successful monthly art walk on the first Saturday of the month. With 30 galleries and artists' studios participating in the art walk, it reflects the huge impact of the fine arts in a town of 400.
Most of Jerome's art galleries seem to fit the Southwest style of galleries that I discussed earlier in reference to Sedona. However, and very surprising to me, Jerome's art spaces seem more individual and original -- in most cases -- than Sedona's cookie cutter model of galleries.
There are several cooperatives that I observed, most noticeably the Jerome Artists Cooperative, where the hilarious (and smart) watercolors of Dave Wilder were on exhibit on that day that I visited. Full of irony and delivered with superb technical expertise, Wilder flexes well-developed observational skills that challenge the genre of "cowboy art" in a new refreshing manner.
The Spirit Art Gallery, although an independent commercial art gallery, seems to be run like a coop as well, with work by 30 artists on display at once, with some very good talent among them. I liked the feisty owner, who really believes in her artists and is a breath of fresh air for gallery owners.
My Mind's Art Gallery, which features the work of its owner, Ukrainian painter Joanna Bregon, a surrealist artist who has found a home in this unusual little town, also stands out from the cookie cutter cluttered gallery model.
It was refreshing to see diversity in art and rugged individuality in each art space, regardless of how one feels about the quality of the art itself, in some cases.
And then, while walking through the various galleries and talking to some of the owners and artists, it dawned on me that the Jerome galleries and shops is what I had expected to see in Sedona: unique, one-of-a-kind shops, art venues and art galleries.
I also discovered that nearly everyone that I talked to in this tiny town where everyone seems to know everyone else, seems to have a grudge against either the land developers and the expansion of homes in nearby areas (and competition for water) and/or against the Jerome city fathers for a variety of reasons, most dealing with construction issues.
Finally I trekked down to the town's former High School, an ancient multi-story set of buildings that has been converted into artists' studios and workshops - 20 of them.
There the work of Michael MacDonald and Derryl Day really stood out, especially some of Day's older portraiture works, which were exquisite color pencil pieces full of personality and grace, as well as tremendous technical skill. But the key here, with an exception here and there, is that these were all artists in the overall, rounded, sense of the adjective -- not just "Southwest art" artists; it was refreshing and interesting.
As small as Jerome is, it's clear that the town's colorful past, coupled with its amazing location and vistas, and more recently married to a creative artistic community and over-protective city fathers, all act as an irresistible magnet to the hordes of tourists that visit it every year.
It's also clear that there's something special about this place; it can be felt in the air, in its people and in its streets, and the dealer in me wonders if this special spot would not be an ideal place for some sort of very specific and focused art fair - a mini model of my "new art fair model."
Sedona and Jerome are like kissing cousins of the Arizona tourist draw. I think that together, they can also become complimentary partners for an art draw of its own.
Even from far away Arizona I just wanted make sure that you all know that the DCist Exposed Photography Show opens tonight in DC!
The show is at Civilian Art Projects at 406 7th Street NW in Penn Quarter in DC -- a few blocks from the Chinatown metro, and the reception is from 7 to 9 p.m. and free. DCist Exposed received picks in all three Washington Post event guides, as well as the Washingtonian and other publications, and I bet that this year's show will be even better than last year's terrific exhibition.
Do not miss this opening and someone please email me some images of the opening crowds.